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Ohio’s New Self-Defense Law: What You Need to Know

“What’s new,” you ask? Ohio’s self-defense law. The state’s new self-defense law came into effect this past March. The most important change you need to know is that if you wound or kill someone and claim it was an act of self-defense, you are innocent until the state proves that your actions were not self-defense. This is a 180-degree turn-around from the previous, long-standing Ohio law that placed the burden on you—the defendant—to prove that your actions were legitimate and that you acted in self-defense.

The new law has significant implications for Ohio’s four million gun owners. Graham & Graham hopes that you never have to use a firearm to defend yourself, your loved ones, or your property, but if you do, our Zanesville criminal law attorneys want to make sure you understand your rights.

Burden Shift in 2019 Law

Up until this change in Ohio’s self-defense law, the burden rested with the person claiming self-defense to prove that self-defense was justified. For example, in a case involving deadly force, the burden was on the person using the deadly force to convince police, prosecutors, or a jury that they had reasonable fear of serious bodily harm when they opened fire, that they did not start the confrontation or do anything to escalate it, and that, if possible, tried to retreat from the threat. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. The burden shifts.

Sounds really fair, right? That’s what 49 other states think too. Prior to Ohio passing its new self-defense law, it was the only state that required the victim of a deadly force encounter to prove self-defense if charged.

Ohio’s Castle Doctrine

The new self-defense law doesn’t change Ohio’s “castle doctrine.” Under the castle doctrine, gun owners are allowed to use force in their homes or vehicles to defend themselves against intruders.

How Gun Law Could Affect Pending Cases

The new Ohio self-defense law not only affects future deadly force defense cases, it also has repercussions for those already charged with a crime.

In Cuyahoga County, the Prosecutor’s Office dropped murder and voluntary manslaughter charges against a man who claims that he opened fire to defend himself, according to News 5 Cleveland. During the incident, one man used deadly force to defend himself against what an Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor described to News 5 as “a very aggressive attack” by another man.

According to the prosecutor, the court indicated they’re going to apply the new law and not the law that existed at the time of the attack, stating that “[h]e didn’t violate the duty to retreat, that he wasn’t the cause of the incident, and that he had a reasonable belief of serious physical harm, and or imminent death.”

Zanesville Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyers

Graham & Graham’s criminal defense lawyers always keep up to date on the changing laws in Ohio. We offer people in trouble the legal counsel and aggressive representation they need. Graham & Graham covers the full range of criminal law matters, backed by a long history of serving our Southeastern Ohio community.

Contact us for a free case review, and keep this number in your phone for whenever and wherever you need our help: 1-800-625-8585.